Cover Story: What Do Your Residential Customers Really Want?

Knowing the trends and savvy marketing will enable smaller dealers to compete with the big boys


EPS prides itself on having customers or potential customers talk to a real, live person within 30 seconds. It is that kind of response that makes the homeowner feel secure and in touch with their local business operator. Even more important, Hood says, his company lets every customer know that they background check and drug test installers and assure they are not felons. “We do not subcontract our labor,” Hood adds, noting that many people are uncomfortable with trusting a “cable guy” with their life safety system. “I would never slam the competition — just put the question out there for a customer to consider,” he says.

 

Other Threats to Your Success

It is not all gravy — for one thing, there is a growing do-it-yourself (DIY) market for thermostats and other security and home automation equipment. For another, service and maintenance can be expensive. “I know we can get more RMR,” Knox says. “The scary part is figuring out the right amount.”

Knox fears that, even today, dealers are not charging enough. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I never felt we were charging enough,” he says. “I know it is too low right now.”

Operating expenses can eat an integrator’s profits and then some. Where it takes one service tech to support a traditional customer, it can take five for the high-tech customer. Rather than a visit every year or two to replace a battery or add a door alarm, high-tech customers are apt to call every time there is a quirk with camera access or a router’s lights flash. It is not just phone calls but truck rolls that can eat up revenue.

Customers can revolt, too. While most people will appreciate remote video — who hasn’t been in a boring meeting and hopped on their smartphone just to see what the dog is doing downstairs — other features might not be the long-term winners they appear. Energy management is effective; but how often does one really need to change the thermostat from 500 miles away?

Whatever happens, Knox emphasizes that dealers and integrators have to keep in mind that their business is protecting the things most precious to their customers — their lives and their property. “Answer your phone. Be there for the client. Don’t become a gadget seller,” Knox encourages. While he admits they will have a tougher row to hoe, he says he doubts that firms that do not offer high-tech are dead as dinosaurs. “Remember to take care of the important things first and you can survive,” Knox concludes. “It will be tough to continue as a traditional service provider and you are in danger of losing customers — but you can survive.”

Curt Harler is a technology writer and regular contributor to SD&I magazine. You can reach him at curt@curtharler.com.

 

SIDEBAR: Home Automation By the Numbers

$19.15 billion

The total market value of home automation & controls in 2012

Source: MarketsandMarkets’ "Home Automation & Controls Market by Product & Geography (2013 - 2018)" report

 

$48.02 billion

The projected total market value of home automation & controls by 2018, an estimated annual growth rate of 16.9%

Source: MarketsandMarkets’ "Home Automation & Controls Market by Product & Geography (2013 - 2018)" report

 

2.3 million

The estimated number of new smart home installations in North America in 2013, an increase of 66 percent year-over-year

Source: Berg Insight

 

78%

The forecasted annual growth rate of the home automation market in Europe over the next five years

Source: Berg Insight

 

68%

The number of Americans polled who say a home security or automation system increases the value of a home.

Source: ADT 2013 Safety Data Index

 

$300.7 million

2012 global revenue of the Home Energy Management market, which is projected to grow to $1.8 billion in 2022

Source: Navigant Research Report, “Home Energy Management”